Cooking is easier…

Photography by Matt Hocking

My absolute favorite thing to do in the whole wide world is cook in front of an audience and bring them joy with food. While it’s hard work I find it nearly effortless. You know what doesn’t feel effortless? Bookkeeping, paying taxes, marketing, sales, and budgeting. However, for better or worse, these things are all necessary to running a business.

Last week my Dad, a small business owner for 40 years, came down to join me for a business strategy retreat. Over two and a half days the two of us formalized six goals for this year with action plans that sound fairly miserable but incredibly effective. It was amazing and invaluable time and a sheer joy to spend it together. In return, he asked for just one thing.

My Dad has set 23 goals for this year and prioritized them. They range from personal health and growth to just having fun. I know no-one better in the world at formalizing, planning and achieving goals than my Dad. One of them is to learn how to cook five meals. While he was here he asked me to help him get started. The first night we cooked a pumpkin, kale and chorizo chili. The second night I taught my Dad how to roast a chicken.

Like many of the goals I set for this year, roasting a chicken may seem daunting at first but, once you break it down and look at the steps, it’s really quite easy. 10-15 minutes of prep, 60-75 minutes in a hot oven, and dinner is ready. You just stuff some aromatics in the cavity, truss up the bird, and rub it with fat. It’s that easy. A pan sauce makes it even better.

Even if that sounds hard, it’s still better than bookkeeping, I promise.

Chinese Flavors Roast Chicken

Serves 4

I roast a lot of chickens. This particular flavor combination was inspired by a Chinese New Year dinner.

Photography by Matt Hocking


  • 1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 lbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2” fresh ginger cut in thick slices
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 mandarin orange, quartered (or 1/2 navel orange, halved)
  • 2 tbs butter, softened
  • 1 tbs hot chili oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbs cold butter
  • Rice wine vinegar


  • Pre-heat oven to 450.
  • Rinse the chicken, including the cavity, with cold water. Check the cavity to make sure the neck and giblets aren’t stuffed inside. If they are, remove them and save them for something else. (Or throw them away. It’s okay.) Using paper towels, dry the chicken well, inside and out.
  • Season the cavity with salt and pepper and stuff with garlic, ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise and orange. Using kitchen twine, tie the ends of the legs tightly together, tying them to the chunk of meat where the tail would be. This closes up the cavity.
  • Tuck the wing tips against the body. Tie a second piece of string around the chicken, hugging the wings against the body.
  • Stir together the butter and chile oil. Rub all over into the skin of the chicken. It will take a minute of rubbing before the butter starts penetrating the skin. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place, breast-side down, in a 12″ oven-proof skillet.
  • Place the chicken in oven and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side up and return the chicken to the oven. Reduce heat to 400 and cook until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 160. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn on the broiler.
  • Photography by Matt Hocking

    Stir together the honey and soy sauce. Brush the bird with the mixture and return to the oven, 8″ from the broiler. Cook until the liquid glazes the meat, 3-5 minutes. brush again and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes longer.

  • Remove chicken from oven and place on a platter, tented very loosely with foil. This keeps the bird warm but prevents the skin from getting soggy.
  • Tilt pan and skim some of the fat from the pan juices. Place skillet on stovetop over a med-high burner. Add rice wine or sherry, scraping up brown bits from the pan while it reduces. Add stock and reduce liquid by half. Add any juices from the chicken, including tipping the bird to empty the cavity. Reduce until liquid is syrupy. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the cold butter. Season to taste with a splash of rice wine vinegar.
  • Cut chicken into pieces – whole legs, breasts and wings – and serve with the pan sauce.

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